Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma (right) are greeted by supporters as they arrive to cast their votes on a referendum for a new constitution in Damascus on Sunday. [Photo: Syrian Arab News Agency via AFP]

Damascus/Beijing, February 28, 2012 (TSR) –┬áSyria’s Interior Minister Mohammad Chaar said on Sunday local time that as many as 89.4 percent of voters supported a new draft constitution.

The results showed that 89.4 percent approved the draft constitution, while 9 percent said “No” to it, Chaar said, adding that a total of 7,490,319 voters approved the constitution.

”]The referendum started early on Sunday morning, and more than 14 million Syrians were eligible to vote at 13,835 ballot centers across the country.

The draft constitution aims to restore stability in the unrest-hit country and gives a president a limit of two seven-year terms.

Under the new draft constitution, President Bashar al-Assad will end his two seven-year terms in 2014 at the latest and his family’s more than 40 years of rule of the country.

It is also expected to allow Syrian citizens to enjoy more freedom, end the monopoly of power of Assad’s Baath Party and set a timetable for multi-party elections.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said that the new draft constitution would transit Syria to a new phase, stressing that “this is a historical day in the lives of Syrians”.

China on Monday hit back at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over her criticism of China’s stance on Syria, calling it “totally unacceptable”.

“This is totally unacceptable for us. China has always retained a fair, objective position on the Syrian issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing, after Clinton called the Chinese and Russian veto of a UN resolution on Syria “despicable” last week.

China is a friend of the Syrian and Arabian people and has always supported their right cause, Hong said. China has always determined its stance on the Syria issue based on peace and stability in the country and the Middle East, and from protecting their long-term, fundamental interests, Hong said.

“We believe the right of the Syrian people to independently choose their development path must be fully respected, and the international community should not impose any so-called plans, and China is willing to play a positive and constructive role over the issue with all parties concerned.”

Clinton said on Friday that the international community must work to change the positions of Moscow and Beijing that vetoed two UN resolutions condemning the Syrian government.

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